Use the right tools to prune. Only a few tools are needed and it is beneficial to use good ones. Tools should be sharp and high quality. Smooth cuts heal faster and provide a less favorable site for disease. Don't wiggle pruning tools to cut into a branch that is too large for the tools. Too often incorrect tools are used to prune, which leaves jagged cuts and ruined pruning tools. Take care not to damage the bark around the pruning cut.
- Figure 1. Pruning tools
- Hand clippers and shears are recommended for removing small branches less than 1/2 inch in diameter. They come in sizes from 6 to 9 inches in two general types — anvil shears and two-bladed scissor shears (by-pass blades). Anvil shears are used on dry, hard and old growth with cuts less than 1/4 inch in diameter or on plants that do not have hollow stems. Scissor shears give a precise, clean flush cut that is generally considered best, especially for pruning new green growth, roses and shrubs having hollow and thick stems.
- Loppers are recommended for pruning limbs from 1/2 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Loppers are usually 20-36 inches long and have a distinct curve or contour in the shear and cutting blade.
- Hedge shears are used for developing a formal, sheared appearance. Do not use shears on any shrub where a natural shape is desired. Hedge shears are the most inappropriately used pruning tool. Too many people think they are the only pruning tool, and that every shrub should be sheared. Hedge shears result in indiscriminate heading cuts.
- Pruning saws are used to remove limbs greater than 1 1/2 inches in diameter. A clean, sharp saw designed for pruning and not carpentry work can make the difference in a smooth cut or a ragged cut that is more conducive to disease. There are several types and shapes, but the one most useful to the average homeowner is one with a curved blade. The teeth are angled toward the handle and cut in a pulling motion. Some saw blades are designed to cut on the push-and-pull strokes. Saws with narrow, short blades (about 12 to 15 inches long) are the most effective for pruning overgrown shrubs (severe renewal pruning) and limbs from trees.
- Pole saws and pruners are similar to pruning saws and loppers, but have a handle that may be 10-12 feet long. The pole pruner is a form of lopper with a long handle for cutting difficult-to-reach branches. Pole saws and pole pruners may be purchased as separate tools or as a combination tool. Use extreme caution when pruning near electric lines to prevent electrocution. Purchasing fiberglass pole pruners reduces the hazard.
- Power pruners, a recent category for pruning tools, are lightweight and powerful. They are marketed as conventional saws with smaller fuel tanks and generally have handles located on top of the engine instead of the rear. Power pruners are also available as electric saws (need an extension cord) or as battery-operated saws. Power pole pruners with a light, two-cycle engine are connected to a small chainsaw blade. The pruner can be attached to a pole with a fixed- or variable-length pole. These pole pruners resemble string trimmers. They work quickly despite their small size and are powerful. Always adhere to all safety precautions when operating these machines.
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